Regulars to the Rockpalast Crossroads Festival will know that the Harmonie’s opening Wednesday show is traditionally not overly well visited. Four evenings of music in a row is heavy going when you’re working. Day one is a day when I can take a stroll around inside and photograph from stage front to balcony with ease. So where did all these people come from?! The car numberplates suggest long distances in some cases.
There’s nothing worse than listening to musicians who would be great if they weren’t so quiet and inhibited. For this reason Dutch band The Deaf are a pleasure to see and hear. Frans van Zoest delivered a master class on how to win over an audience without needing to play a note on Wednesday. When one wag in the audience shouts the question “When are you making a live CD?” van Zoest doesn’t miss a beat with his answer “Tonight… and you’re now on it!!!”
With the Rockpalast cameras rolling, it will of course be a live video and that’s about as perfect a way of experiencing The Deaf’ without having a ticket as you can get. Van Zoest has been compared in his frenzied stage presence to a hero of mine Wilko Johnson an it’s not hard to see why. The manic eye contact isn’t quite so threatening as that proffered by Canvey Island’s finest but the legs splayed out jump is all Wilko.
The music is very much 70’s but actually not in the style of Dr Feelgood. There’s a song played this evening to one the band’s main inspirations – a punk rocking band from Portland named Dead Moon (drummer Andrew Loomis died this week) and it’s a much better clue to where the Deaf’s music comes from. Whilst Maurizio Pinna rocks his electric piano back and forward frenziedly and van Zoests takes giant leaps around the stage, Janneke Nijhuijs seems calmingly static on her bass guitar – almost as if to reassure us that the wild men beside her are under control.
Manic music from manic musicians who play from their very souls. Come the end of their all-too-short 45 minute set and I hear from all around conversations starting with the English equivalent of “hope they come back here on their own to play a full set soon!”. Frans van Zoest did mention at the start that he saw The Clash do a 20 minute set on Rockpalast and was mortified to find they had to find material for 45 minutes. Lady and Gentlemen – learn a couple more songs and COME BACK SOON, we loved you.
Not for the first time at Rockpalast we had a, shall we say older band, with a big reputation but not the youthful energy of the opener to follow. In fact the Wikipedia article on tonights second band starts “Fischer-Z were a British rock band…” It’s true that Londoner John Watts is the only original member of the band who first broke up in 1981. It has though sporadically burst back into life and this is the latest incarnation that still obviously has a big fan base.
Fischer-Z have been a contentious band in their time and Watts proves he is the ‘Call a spade a spade’ type as he grudgingly downs a glass of German beer complaining that “It tastes like my own p*ss!”. From the off he asks the question “Can music change the World?” before launching into ‘What makes the World go round’. By the sets end I’m convinced that music can change the World and that John Watts has been writing astute lyrics that he hoped would at least dent the Worlds preconceptions if not change it completely for many years.
He’s still writing them, like the lively ‘Just a Man’ which is new single from the new album ‘This is my Universe’. It’s a young band backing Watts and ‘backing band’ is most clearly their purpose – leaving the spotlight to the main man although keyboardist Matthew Gest does some excellent work and gets a little of the spotlight from time to time.
I enjoy the last songs from the bar with a cool pint of what John Watts would observe was “My p*ss”. It tasted good. My thoughts return again to Frans van Zoest and his remark at the end of The Deaf’s set. Thanking Fischer-Z for sharing this evening’s Rockpalast with them “without Fischer-Z ‘s presence here we (the Deaf) would probably only have had an audience of five”.
All in all then an evening of 70’s inspired music delivered by two band’s with lead singers of different ages and different styles but the shared desire and ability to connect with their audience. A gift that you sadly don’t see every day in live concert halls these days.
MORE PHOTOS COMING SOON